The goal of the Genealogical Society
is to keep the temples supplied with names.
Elder Theodore M. Burton
Assistant to the Council of the Twelve
and President of the Genealogical Society
The March, 1982 issue of the Ensign, the glossy
Church magazine, announced plans to construct ten new temples, including one in Dallas and
one in Chicago, that will each have "an annual capacity for 195,000 endowments."
Currently the Washington Temple is the only one east of the Mississippi, though there is
one under construction in Atlanta. Los Angeles and Oakland have both had temples for a
number of years. Overseas temples include one in London and one in Switzerland among
others. The largest concentration of temples by far is in Utah. In 1981, over four million
endowments were performed for the dead about 200,000 per temple for each of the
twenty temples currently in operation. By 1984, the Church plans to have forty-one temples
constructed and in operation around the world including one recently announced for Denver,
Colorado. [As of the summer of 2002, there were over 100 temples in operation, and another
20-25 planned or under construction].
Of the four million endowments done in 1981 (almost
identical to the number done in 1980), only 49,800 or 1.25% were for the living. I was one
of those. All the rest were for the dead. Matthew Ramage, whose name was pinned to my
white jumpsuit in the Temple, was one of those.
How many of the endowments for the dead were for
non-Mormons whose descendants had no knowledge of what was being done? Each Temple
jurisdiction covers about four hundred wards, making each ward responsible for an average
of ten endowments per week. In practice, each ward makes a Temple trip once a month on a
predesignated day. Out of an active ward membership of four hundred, in my own experience
about ten will regularly participate in these trips. All of these have long since been
ceremonially disemboweled for all their discoverable ancestors. They suffer through the
rigors of the journey and the tedium of the exercise solely to "do work for the
dead," gain brownie points in heaven, and help the Bishop fill the quota. If each of
the ten goes through four times in a visit, the ward can cover its forty per month quota.
One elder complained to me: "I don't like going to the Temple because we rush through
quickly so we can go down and get another name; I don't even get to relax a few minutes in
the Celestial Room."
Based on this experience, I would estimate that of the four
million endowments done annually (expected to rise to eight million with forty Temples in
operation) at least 3,000,000 are of individuals who have no Mormon descendants. Where do
their names come from? How did the name of Matthew Ramage, completely unknown to me, end
up pinned to my jumpsuit?
The Microfilm Project
The original purpose of the Genealogical Society of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was to gather together genealogical records
that would assist church members in finding their ancestors and to maintain a continuously
updated alphabetical index of all names endowed in the temples. The development of
microfilm technology in the 1930's greatly facilitated the gathering of records. An
experienced camera operator could film ten pages of parish or public records in the time
that a manual transcriber would take to copy out a few lines of information--and with no
problem of accuracy. By portraying themselves as careful researchers of family lineage,
anxious to preserve irreplaceable records, Mormon microfilmers gained consent worldwide to
film vital statistics records. By offering to provide a copy of all filmed records free of
charge to co-operating institutions, many doors opened to them.
Archibald F. Bennett, secretary of the Genealogical Society
of Utah in the 1930's and 1940's, and the founder of the global microfilming program,
visited Connecticut in 1946 to lobby for microfilming privileges at the State Library.
"Thousands of our people, including three Presidents of our church, have ancestors
born in Connecticut," he said. "I myself have fifteen or twenty. We shudder to
think what would happen to these records if an atom bomb were dropped on the State
Library." Ensign, April, 1982. The state officials acquiesced and gave
Bennett permission to copy the complete birth, death and marriage records of the state of
Connecticut. Similar success occurred in other states and in foreign countries as well.
To store and preserve the microfilmed records, President
and Prophet David O. McKay in the late 1950's ordered the construction of the Granite
Mountain Records Vault, a mammoth underground nuclear bomb-proof storage facility. With
seven hundred feet of solid granite overhead and steel doors weighing a total of
thirty-two tons beveled inward so that even an atomic blast would only seal them tighter,
the hundreds of thousands of rolls of microfilm found a secure home. (By 1982 Granite
Mountain contained over a million hundred-foot rolls of microfilm containing at a minimum
two billion names, and perhaps upwards of ten billion.) [Twenty years later there are 2.3
million rolls of microfilm in "The Vault."] "The gathering of all
genealogically valuable records of mankind," writes a church specialist, "is the
long-range goal of the Genealogical Society." Ensign, August,1974.
The Church estimates that about fifty billion people have
lived on the earth since the creation. According to Church historians Arrington and
One of the most unusual structures built in recent years is
the mammoth subterranean archival storage facility in Little Cottonwood Canyon, about
twenty miles southeast of Salt Lake City. A huge vault bored through the sheer granite
rock, this impregnable repository, with more than an acre and a half of storage area, is
designed to last for centuries. It contains church records and the microfilm negatives of
a vast accumulation of genealogical records - more than two billion pages of records.
Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon
Experience (New York, 1979), ch.14. "The air-conditioned micro-film vaults of
Utah," wrote an awestruck visiting British archivist, "with their computer
control center look like something from another world." Ensign, August,1974.
In the 1950's, the Church, heretofore primarily a Utah and
Mountain States organization whose members traced their ancestors back to the original
Mormon pioneers, began to enlarge its missionary work and, as a consequence, attracted a
growing convert membership. As the Church developed into a substantial national and,
indeed, a global institution, Prophet McKay who had spearheaded this growth
sought to build temples outside of the Rocky Mountain region. Before he was chosen Prophet
in 1951, the Church had eight temples, four in Utah, three in areas settled by the
original pioneers the Canadian Rockies, Arizona and Idaho and one in Hawaii.
In the space of four years, President McKay dedicated four more temples. The one in Los
Angeles seemed like a local extension of temple facilities compared to the structures
erected overseas in Switzerland, London and New Zealand. Shortly thereafter, to his
dismay, the Prophet found that the new temples insignia of the global mission of
the Church were severely underutilized. Many millions of names generated by the
microfilming program were pouring into Salt Lake City every year, but Church members were
not utilizing this information in sufficient numbers to provide the necessary flow of
names to keep the temples active. Temple trips organized ward by ward were not difficult
to arrange, but if the membership did not take the trouble to do extensive genealogical
research family by family, there would be no names for them to endow once they had donned
For convert members with non-Mormon relatives and
ancestors, genealogical research often ran into family hostility. The shunned convert
preferred to retreat into his new church associations rather than confront the
closemouthed displeasure of the great aunt who knew the whole story of his family's
history but adamantly refused to cooperate. At the same time this phenomenon was stifling
genealogical research and therefore keeping the member away from the temples (since he had
no family names to endow), the microfilm kept cascading into Church headquarters.
Somewhere in this mountain of filmed records were the names and dates of the ancestors the
frustrated convert could not identify. Without some family guidance, however, the member
even were he capable of searching effectively in these records would have
had no clue as to where to look.
In this project the Church refused to help. Professional
genealogists were very expensive to employ; the Church lay the burden on the members. The
members threw their hands up in helplessness at a task that often frustrated
professionals, and temple work dwindled. As the Church later expressed it: "The
Genealogical Society cannot do the research work of establishing family lines of
priesthood heritage which God has assigned the Priesthood to do." Ensign,
May, 1975. The Genealogical Society existed to gather names, the raw data, but the rest
was up to the members. Elder Theodore M. Burton, President of the Genealogical Society,
stated the matter baldly: "The Genealogical Society," he stated, "does not
do genealogical research work." The Church wouldn't do it; the members couldn't do it
- and the beautiful temples grew still.
To solve the problem of lagging genealogical research by
the membership without shouldering the expense of providing professional research help to
millions of Mormons, the Prophet ordered the Genealogical Society to extract names
directly from the microfilmed records for use in temple endowments without any
concern as to whether the names extracted were those of ancestors of church members. A
name was a name. This ominous development, unheralded and unannounced, silently broke
faith with the hundreds of records custodians who had co-operated with the Mormon
microfilming program. Archibald Bennett's heart-stirring plea for preservation of the
records of his ancestors appeared somewhat duplicitous in light of President McKay's
decision to use the obtained records indiscriminately to keep the temples active. The
members would not do enough genealogical research to keep the temples busy? Very well. All
they had to do was go to the temples and the Church would provide the names for them.
Thus, Matthew Ramage's name came out of the computer and was pinned on my jumpsuit.
Once this solution proved successful, the microfilming
program was accelerated. The Genealogical Society trained members worldwide in
microfilming techniques, dubbing them "research specialists" and equipping them
with the credential "Accredited Genealogist (A.G.)" to disarm records
custodians. The extracting of names from the growing microfilm files was controlled as
A corps of young women was gathered and trained to read Old
English parish registers projected from a 16-mm film onto a screen in a film reader. The
data from these registers was flexotype code-punched to paper tape and simultaneously
transmitted to a computer two blocks away, under a dual "match-merge" system of
reading and code punching of entries by two persons. With this system, any errors were
immediately detected and could be corrected, which practically eliminated the chance for
With the R-Tab (records tabulation) system, millions of
identified names are continually fed into the computer mass file and then sent on to the
temples for ordinance work. The system, together with the very extensive filming program,
will insure an adequate supply of names for as many temples as may be constructed, so long
as any records remain extant for filming.
Hoyt Palmer, "For Those Who are Waiting," Ensign,
The process of culling names from the microfilmed records
is known as "controlled extraction," as in "the controlled extraction
program being carried on in many of the stakes of the Church with such great devotion and
success." Ensign, May, 1982. The term "controlled" means simply
that by having the records "extracted" simultaneously by two clerks, errors and
oversights are eliminated. The "extract" is "controlled" to make sure
the records are accurately picked clean.
The Church takes seriously its mission to allow every soul
in the Spirit World the option of accepting a proxy endowment. Elder Theodore M. Burton
stated frankly in 1975: "The First Presidency has charged the Genealogical society to
provide enough names to keep the temples in operation. The system developed in response to
the request is called the controlled extraction program." Ensign,
March,1975. "The members of the Church today," wrote the President of the
Genealogical Society in 1975, "are producing only 34 percent of the names used in
temple ordinance work. The remainder are supplied by controlled extraction." He
concluded that "the general trend is towards an increase in the number of names
submitted to temples through the Society."
In 1968 member or "patron" names endowed in the
temples came to 600,000. Controlled extraction provided 1,100,000 more. Had the Church
only patron input to utilize, each of the thirteen temp1es in operation in 1968 would have
had only 46,000 names to process, less than 25% of capacity. By feeding in 1,100,000
non-Mormon-related names, culled from parish and public records, utilization rose to 70%.
The feed from the Granite Mountain Vault rose and fell as needed to augment patron input
and keep the endowment rooms busy. In 1974, for example, 2.4 million endowments were
performed, two-thirds of which had no connection with member research. Ensign,
In light of this data, the statement of Apostle Gordon B.
Hinckley in the August, 1974 Ensign that "the primary purpose (of the
genealogical records preservation program) is to afford members of the Church the
resources needed to identify their dead ancestors," is not correct. The primary
purpose of the records acquisition program is to provide names for proxy baptisms, an
objective that does not require any genealogical research whatsoever by the membership.
Notwithstanding the power of controlled extraction, patron
input is still encouraged strongly. "As new temples are being constructed in ever
greater rapidity," said Elder Burton in an address to the Apri1, 1975 General
Conference, "we are faced with the problem of keeping them in operation." In
General Conference seven years later - April, 1982 - the same refrain was repeated by
Elder W. Grant Bangerter. "It would be unfortunate," he said, "to build
temples around the earth and have them stand largely idle." Members should not look
upon the temples simply as a place "to do a name." Going to the temple to endow
extractees, stated Wayne Brickey, supervisor of priesthood genealogy textbooks, is
"vital," but "many of us seem to confine ourselves to that part - and even
at that, the temples are well below capacity attendance." Don't depend on controlled
extraction to do it all, exhorted Elder Brickey. Go out and find your own "Every
ancestor found is a victory; every name submitted is a soul with an opportunity for
exaltation." Having encouraged, the patrons, he then reverted to hard facts:
As temples become more busy and more numerous, it will be
necessary to extract an enormous number of names from various records in the world, on a
careful, controlled basis, in order to supplement those names submitted privately by
Church members. This work has already begun, but it will undoubtedly grow, allowing a much
greater amount of temple work to be done.
Wayne Brickey, "The New Scope of What We have Called
Genealogy," Ensign, January, 1977.
What, Already Endowed?
New church members who desire to stand in for their
ancestors are often dismayed to discover that the endowment has already been done through
controlled extraction. The Genealogical Society sought to put a positive spin on this
situation. All you have to do, says Elder Burton, is to check our alphabetical print-out
of controlled extraction endowments. If it's already been done, you can relax in the
knowledge that your ancestor has already received "the saving ordinances." Elder
Burton expressed puzzlement that anyone should be offended at endowment by extraction.
"Why," he asks, "do some Saints feel hurt when they find we are doing work
for them that saves them time and money?"
Nothing . . . could be more helpful to the Saints than to
have all the tedious spadework in Church and vital records done for them at reduced cost
through the controlled extraction program. It is not a handicap, but a blessing to the
Ensign, March, 1975. The members may be pardoned
for their displeasure upon discovering that beloved ancestors for whom they desired to
stand as proxy were endowed by an unknown individual to fill the quota one Saturday in a
If Mormons are sometimes offended at the impersonality of
the controlled extraction process, the feelings of non-Mormons about their ancestors, who
are yearly endowed by the millions, might surprise Elder Burton even more.
With controlled extraction in full swing, and all the wards
organized for monthly temple trips to stand proxy for the computer output, no obstacle
remained to the erection of more and more temples. The ceremonial disembowelment of the
entire human race is now well underway. "We thank Thee, 0 God, for a Prophet"
begins a popular Mormon hymn, "to guide us in these latter days."
Before the inauguration of the controlled extraction
program, the Church on an ad hoc basis performed endowments by proxy for selected
non-Mormons who had passed on. The endowment work for George Washington and the other
founding fathers was done for them in a Utah temple in the nineteenth century· Spencer W.
Kimball, Prophet of the Church and grandson of Heber C. Kimball, declared in the
We know that the spirit world is filled with the spirits of
men who are waiting for you and me to get busy - waiting as the signers of the Declaration
of Independence waited. "Why," they asked President Wilford Woodruff, "why
do you keep us waiting?"
Although the Church will not do genealogical research for
its members, it makes an exception for non-members of royal lineage. The Royalty
Identification Unit (Special Services Section) of the Genealogical Department maintains a
custom-produced list of celebrity endowments that are not part of the controlled
extraction print-out. These names are listed in the T99 (Special Handling) file
"royalty and other special records processed by the Genealogical Society." The
Church reserves to itself the right to perform the ordinances for the great and
discourages any member from standing as proxy for a royal forebear. "Due to the
complexities of research associated with royalty," reads a Genealogical Society
Research Paper (Series F, No.4), "the Genealogical Department researches these lines.
Therefore, when a family's ancestors are individuals with royal titles, it is recommended
that church members spend their resources on other lines that need to be researched."
To emphasize that the Church's allotment of its own
resources to genealogical research is solely for the purpose of preparing blueblood
endowments, the following warning is added: "Caution: the spouses of royalty may have
been common people and therefore may not be traced as part of the royalty identification
Despite Elder Burton's statement to the contrary ("The
Genealogical Society cannot do the research work of establishing family lines of
priesthood heritage which God has assigned the priesthood to do"), the Genealogical
Society does do such research, but only for nobility. God, it appears, has assigned the
"common" priesthood the task of finding their own undistinguished forebears, but
reserves to Himself through His Church the establishing and endowing of the crowned heads
If this practice is part of the Restored Gospel, then,
despite what the Bible says, God is a "respecter of persons"
"Special Handling" for the aristocracy; mass extractions for the rest of us.
"Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" if they can
find it. "Blessed are the rich and famous, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"
courtesy of the Genealogical Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints. The average working saint, who faithfully pays his tithe and devotes many hours
per week to church work, is periodically exhorted to "search out" his ancestors
- an expensive and time-consuming undertaking. Were he an aristocrat, the Church would do
it for him free of charge.
George II. Along with the Founding Fathers
in the T99 file are the kings of England. George II of England, according to information
in a Genealogical Society Research Paper, received a proxy baptism on September 5, 1893
during the reign of the Prophet Wilford Woodruff. His wife, Queen Caroline, was baptized
the same day. Their children also enjoyed a Mormon proxy baptism some on September
5, 1893 and the rest a week later on September 12th. On September 20, 1893, Queen Caroline
received her endowment through a female proxy who pledged her to devote all her time,
talent and substance to the Mormon Church, performed the secret handshakes on her behalf
and took the oaths and penalties for her.
Let us say that Queen Caroline joyfully received these
ordinances in the Spirit World where she had been stuck in limbo for over one hundred
years since her death, and immediately left spirit prison to be with Christ. Sad to say,
George II could not go with her, for his endowment was not performed until June 4, 1924
over thirty years later. Why the Mormon authorities made him wait, I do not know.
The royal couple and their children are now an eternal family: the sealing of children to
parents occurred January 14, 1935. Having lived and died ignorant of the advent of the
restored gospel, King George can now enjoy the bliss of celestial glory and,
hopefully, when the opportunity arises, have other wives sealed to him in a latter-day
temple, whereupon he may begin to create and populate new planets.
If George and Caroline can become Adam and Eve to new
worlds, instead of being confined in spirit prison all their eternal days, surely they owe
Joseph Smith and his successors a tremendous debt of gratitude. It is nice to know that
Christ through his priesthood on earth takes special care of European aristocrats who were
also very well taken care of while here on earth.
New England Bluebloods. We all know of
Boston, "the land of the bean and the cod, where the Lowells talk only to the Cabots,
and the Cabots talk only to God." Eight of the Cambridge, Massachusetts Cabots did
not have the opportunity of talking with God until May 24, 1975 when they received their
controlled extraction endowments in the Tempe, Arizona Temple, having been baptized there
four weeks previously. The oldest was Anna Sophia Blake Cabot, born July 2, 1796; the
youngest Jane Lawrence Cabot, born November 23, 1846. Three days later - April 29, 1975
seven more Cambridge Cabots won the privilege at the Arizona Temple of entering
into the presence of Christ ranging from Frederick Cabot, born February 20, 1788,
to George B. Gay Cabot, born April 8, 1836. Surely they are all everlastingly grateful to
the state of Massachusetts for its willingness to participate in the Latter-day Saints
Should the Cambridge Lowells desire to talk to these
Cabots, they need not despair, for they too have been extracted. While the Cabots were
being endowed in Arizona, three Lowells Anna Cabot Lowell (b. September 29, 1811),
Augustus Lowell (b. January 15, 1830) and Blanche Lowell (b. 1847) received their
baptisms and proto-Masonic blood oaths in the Washington, D.C. Temple.
Frank J. Cannon, former Senator from Utah and son of First
Counsellor George Q. Cannon, records in his memoirs a story about Theodore Roosevelt:
And it is told sometimes solemnly, sometimes with a
grin that, in the Temple at Salt Lake, a proxy has stood for him and he has been
baptized into the Mormon Church; that proxies have stood for the members of his family and
that they have been sealed to him; and finally that proxies have stood for some of the
great queens of the past (who had not already been sealed to Mormon leaders) and that they
have been sealed to the President for eternity!
Roosevelt had done a great favor to the Mormon Church in
helping to secure a vote in the Senate seating polygamist Reed Smoot after a Senate
Investigation Committee had recommended that he be denied admission. "It is not
uncommon practice in the Mormon Church," explains Frank Cannon, "thus to 'do a
work' for a Gentile who has befriended the people or otherwise won the gratitude of the
Church authorities." Frank J. Cannon and Harvey J. O'Higgins, Under the Prophet
in Utah (Boston, 1911).
Should offended non-Mormons oppose continuation of the
controlled extraction program and lobby for an end to Mormon microfilming privileges in
public and church records, a trained Mormon theologian may well challenge them: are the
millions who died without benefit of having the opportunity to accept the restored gospel
to be prevented from enjoying the ultimate in heavenly bliss simply because their living
descendants refuse to do the work for them, or allow others to do it in their stead? Is
this fair to the dead? "There are uncounted millions," wrote Gordon B. Hinckley,
then an apostle and now a counsellor to the Prophet, in the August, 1974 Ensign,
"who have walked the earth and who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel.
Shall they be denied such blessings as are offered in the temples of the church?" A
Mormon "genealogist" told me candidly:
We say we're microfilming the records as part of a
genealogical research project, but it has nothing to do with that. We just need names to
do endowments. Our work won't be done until everyone that ever lived upon the earth is
endowed. Whether they accept the work that we do for them here is up to them.
I can imagine the response if B'nai B'rith representatives
were to go to the Connecticut State Library and make copies of vital statistics records
under the guise of doing genealogical research into Jewish roots, and then used these
records wholesale for secret rituals converting the ancestors of every living Connecticut
resident to Judaism - with the active intention of doing this to every Gentile person that
ever lived. Surely the activities of such a cult would be restrained. It is quite possible
that in the millions of illicit endowments for non-Mormon deceased at least a few Jews
have been ritually converted to Mormonism. [In May, 1995, the Church signed an agreement
with major Jewish organizations and expunged the endowments of 360,000 holocaust victims
from its records. Gary Mokotoff, "The Mormon/Jewish Controversy: What Really
Happened," Avotaynu, Summer, 1995 (www.avotaynu.com/mormon.htm)] I doubt
that any of the millions of Christians whose ancestors have been secretly converted to
Mormonism would be any less upset were they to find out what has been going on in the
Temples of the Lord. [The Catholic Bishop of Salt Lake said he did not think Joan of Arc
would mind. Salt Lake Tribune, October 9, 1999.] The only solace I have in
knowing that the Russian Communists obliterated my ancestors' graves in Lemburg, Poland,
is that no hungry Mormon name-robber, looking for records of dead persons to feed the
ghoulish endowment factories, will ever be able to uncover any trace of them.